January was a big month for local climate advocacy. Mayor Scott announced a goal for Baltimore City to become carbon neutral by 2045, and there were City Council hearings on three bills in Councilman Mark Conway’s climate package. Maryland’s legislative session also kicked off on January 12th, during which state legislators will consider dozens of environmental bills.
See below for more details on our local and state advocacy priorities and how to take action!
Baltimore City Council Climate Package Updates
Three bills in Councilman Mark Conway’s climate package had hearings in January:
- On January 13th, the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee held a hearing on Building Code – Cool Roofs (Ordinance 21-0160), which would require reflective, solar, or green roofs on new buildings and additions to existing buildings owned or financed by the City. You can watch the recording of the hearing here. Blue Water Baltimore testified in favor and suggested an amendment to expand the bill to cover all buildings, not just those owned by the City. The Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee recessed this hearing to consider this and other possible amendments.
- On January 18th, the Ways & Means Committee held a hearing on Procurement – Zero-Emission Vehicles (Ordinance 21-0159) to require the City’s fleet of vehicles to be zero-emission by 2040. You can watch the hearing here, during which we testified in support of this bill. This hearing was also recessed so the committee can work on numerous amendments proposed by the Department of General Services.
- On January 19th, the Health, Environment & Technology Committee hosted a hearing on Global Warming Solutions – Carbon Neutral City (Resolution 21-0075R), which initially called on Baltimore City to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Watch the hearing here. Thanks to testimony and input from residents and advocates like you, the bill was amended to move up the timeline to 2045; to set interim goals of reducing carbon emissions 30% by 2025 and 60% by 2030; to minimize the use of carbon offsets; and to add in more explicit equity language. These amendments aligned with several of the suggestions we made in our testimony, in which we emphasized the importance of increasing the City’s climate ambitions and centering environmental justice. While we would still like to see the City aim for “net zero emissions” rather than “carbon neutrality,” we are encouraged by the faster timeline and interim emission reduction benchmarks included in the amended resolution. The full City Council adopted this resolution on January 24, 2022.
We’re still waiting for a hearing date to be announced for the fourth bill in Councilman Conway’s climate package, City Operations – Net-Zero Emissions of Greenhouse Gases (Ordinance 21-0161) to require City government operations to be net zero by 2050. You can submit testimony in support of this bill and any recommendations you have to make it as ambitious and equitable as possible. Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to advocate for climate justice in Baltimore!
Maryland General Assembly Updates
The Maryland General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session is officially underway. We at Blue Water Baltimore are tracking several bills that will protect environmental and community health in the watersheds where we work. As of now, these are our priority state-level bills:
- Environment – Discharge Permits – Inspections and Administrative Continuations (SB0492 / HB0649): This bill will increase enforcement of pollution permits in Maryland. Enforcement is critical to upholding the integrity of our environmental laws. Under this proposed legislation, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) would be required to increase its enforcement of pollution permits at facilities that are in significant noncompliance. Currently, roughly 70% of facilities with industrial stormwater permits are not in compliance across the state. This bill will also require MDE to address the backlog of “zombie permits,” which have been administratively continued without review.
- Patuxent River Commission – Membership (SB0367 / HB0716): This legislation guarantees a seat on the Patuxent River Commission to the Patuxent Riverkeeper, our peer in the Waterkeeper Alliance. The current Riverkeeper, Fred Tutman, is a long-time outspoken proponent for the river’s health and for marginalized communities within its watershed. In December 2021, Tutman and other vocal members were ousted from the commission. This bill would remedy Tutman’s removal by making the Patuxent Riverkeeper a permanent member of the Commission.
- Invasive and Native Plants – Classification, Listing, Use, and Sales and Use Tax (SB0007 / HB0015): This legislation will support the growth of native plants in Maryland by providing clear classifications of invasive and native plants; requiring the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop and maintain a public list of Maryland’s native plants on its website; requiring state agencies and state-funded projects to prioritize native plants for all planting projects; and exempting native plant sales from Maryland’s sales tax. BWB testified in favor of this bill at the January 25th hearing in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. You can watch that hearing here.
- Environment – Single–Use Plastics – Restrictions (HB0135): This bill will help reduce plastic pollution by preventing food service businesses from providing single-use plastic items such as utensils and straws automatically and only allow the distribution of these items upon request.
We’re also supporting several other bills this legislative session focused on addressing climate change, providing equitable access to renewable energy and public transportation, reducing toxic chemicals, increasing composting, and more. You can learn about all of the state bills we’re tracking on our Engage in Advocacy webpage and stay tuned for action alerts over the next few months!
- Tell the Baltimore City Council to make sure its plans to tackle climate change are ambitious and equitable. You can submit testimony in support of City Operations – Net-Zero Emissions of Greenhouse Gases (21-0161) here or via email ([email protected]). You can use our handy testimony guide to get started and contact Taylor at [email protected] if you need help.
- Sign these petitions to your state legislators:
- Sign up for advocacy alerts to stay informed and take action. We’ll keep you updated on local and state bills and how you can participate in the legislative processes in Baltimore and Annapolis.